Koko, the gorilla who mastered sign language, dies at 46

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     MEETING National Geographic's editor shares a drink with Koko the gorilla

Koko, the gorilla who mastered sign language, has died.

The foundation paid tribute to Koko by praising the influence she had as a "primary ambassador for her endangered species".

A spokesperson for the Gorilla Foundation, said: "Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies comunication and empathy".

"She was beloved and will be deeply missed".

Koko was born on the Fourth of July, 1971, at the San Francisco Zoo; her full name, Hanabi-Ko, is Japanese for "fireworks child".

Just three years later, Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson and Dr. Ronald Cohn moved Koko, a second gorilla named Michael and the project to Stanford University and went on to establish The Gorilla Foundation.

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Koko was known for her extraordinary mastery of sign language.

According to Dr Patterson, Koko was able to understand more than 1,000 signs.

She was featured in National Geographic twice, and was the magazine's cover girl in 1978.

Koko was also famous for her incredible maternal instincts, and on her 44th birthday she was granted her ultimate wish when she adopted two kittens.

The foundation's statement continued: "Her impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world".

She was widely promoted through appearances and the release of a picture book about her and a kitten that lived with her.

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